'Living in the borderland': colonialism and the clash of cultures in the fiction of J.M. Coetzee

Research output: Other contribution


This dissertation examines colonialism and the clash of cultures in conjunction with postcolonial problems as represented in the fiction of J.M. Coetzee by means of analyses of his novels. These analyses are contextualized against the philosophical, historical and literary background of colonialism and the response of African literature to the notion of colonialism. Therefore the introduction and chapter one focus on the rise, development and fall of colonialism, together with its philosophical premises, with special emphasis on the clash between the Judea-Christian tradition and non-European, non-western traditions. The first chapter concentrates predominantly on the African experience of colonialism, since the continent is most relevant for the subject of the dissertation, and is complemented with a critique of colonialism. The chapter also shows the social, economic and cultural consequences of colonialism, pointing out its significance for African and South African literature. The next chapter presents an overview of colonialism in African and South African literature, emphasizing the fact that colonialism is a modus vivendi of the literature because it gave rise to the development of the literature and accordingly provided it with the very subject matter in the form of innumerable exemplars of atrocities and oppression. The fiction of J. M. Coetzee is finally contextualized against this literary background. The third chapter offers a discussion of the critical apparatus employed in the analyses of J. M. Coetzee's novels. It includes a description of the concept of borderland and an overview of allegory - the writing techniques which the author extensively uses in his works in order to attain a high degree of objectivity and universality despite the fact that he deals with controversial and emotive notions such as colonialism, apartheid and racism. The other part of the chapter focuses on the clash of cultures which constitutes the pivotal theme of J. M. Coetzee's novels, and presents the writer's opinion on colonialism as published in his critical writings. Subsequently the chapters 4-9 are analyses of the six novels the author has published to date. In the conclusion a broader view of J. M. Coetzee's works as a whole is offered in the light of their universality and specificity. Then the clash of cultures in South Africa is depicted and the dissertation is ended with a discussion of a process of social change and areas of future research in the fiction of J. M. Coetzee.
Original languageEnglish
TypeMA thesis
Media of outputBound volume
PublisherNorth-West University
Number of pages214
Publication statusUnpublished - 1991


  • Southern Africa
  • Fiction
  • Colonialism
  • J M Coetzee
  • Postmodernism
  • Clash of cultures
  • Borderlands


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